Sunday, June 30, 2013

TV Series Review: Doctor Who (The Daleks)

Continuing along with my First Doctor watch I'm now on the second serial of the series, The Daleks and I was surprised how early on they were introduced, for some reason I had always assumed that they came later. But nope and, looking at the list of episodes, it appears that they pop up at least once more in even the first season, although my inner cynic wonders if they did that partially to recycle props. Speaking of which, like I said before I don't see much point in devoting an entire section to talking about how a 50 year old tv show looks so briefly, there are a few spots in the very first episode (out of seven, this is a long one) where I think something happened to the film and all the settings and costumes look hideously cheap but if you're going to watch Doctor Who, especially these early episodes, this is to be expected.

Doctor Who: The Daleks

Summary: After escaping the cavemen it's clear that the Doctor still doesn't have a very good grasp on how to fly the tardis and they end up on the planet Skaro. Some of the group are curious about the nearby abandoned city but when they go exploring they find themselves trapped by strange creatures called the Daleks and end up being in a fight between daleks and the thals.

The Good: Oh good, that character development for Barbara I had been so worried about last time started coming through here, heck it's noticeable even within the course of the serial. I'm a little sad to see that she seems to be changing by growing harder and a bit less nice than she started out but, if it means less screaming than the first serial, then I'm fine with it. There's not much change in either Susan or Ian this episode, although I am starting to see some in Ian, but there was also a bit of a change in the Doctor this episode. It's clear that he'll have to start opening up to at least his granddaughter soon, and is starting to regret some of his actions and is starting to get along with Barbara. Although Doctor, were you seriously the one who gave the daleks information on how to time travel? I know you were trying to bargain but that was a terrible idea.

The Bad: So you're on the second serial of your brand new show, no idea how long it's going to be around or (probably) even what characters aside from your main four will be reoccurring later, naturally this is going to lead to some ret-conning of things that happen early on and I think that's partially what happened here. I rechecked the wikipedia page for Genesis of the Daleks and everything does match up better than I initially thought but by this point there have simply been so many dalek stories that trying to keep everything straight and chronological is daunting. For that reason I feel like this serial isn't as necessary for a fan to see as you might first think; sure it's the first appearance of the daleks but again it's not their creation and I just think there are better dalek based stories out there. Now if you want to watch the episode in order to see the characters change then it's more necessary but if you're just looking for a dalek episode to watch I say skip it.

So, if you want to watch this to see how the characters, and the show develops then by all means watch this serial, it's long but it's okay. If you just want to watch a dalek story though, ehhhhh there are better ones. I already mentioned Genesis of the DaleksRemembrance of the Daleks was also a good one (and chronologically it happens within a month of An Unearthly Child I believe) and while I'm not so fond of a lot of Nu Who dalek episodes Dalek was quite good (I want to recommend Asylum of the Daleks as well buuuut it does kind of screw up continuity by existing, there's no way the Doctor should be able to get to Skaro after the time war). Finally I'm way more amused than I should be that it only took until the second episode to bring up nuclear fallout and such, welcome to the Cold War everyone! (no not the recent episode)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Book Review: The Summer Prince

This is a book that I was really hoping to have a chance to read (futuristic Brazil sci-fi? I'm in!) and I was surprised that I found it so quickly at my not-so-local library, although I feel like they either do a better job at getting YA books faster or at least make their new books more visible. And even without already knowing about this book I think I would have picked it up anyway because of how gorgeous the cover is, normally I'm a little leary of putting green and yellow right next to each other (it can make things look sickly really easy) but, if the cover here doesn't fully convey it, it makes the cover just pop and I hope a lot of other people pick it up for either of those reasons.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Summary: 400 years ago the world became a nuclear wasteland and while humanity still survives most of the world does so in the ruins of it’s former glory. One of the few exceptions to this is the city-state of Palmares  Tres, a giant city in modern day Brazil which has thrived because of it's isolation and rules made by all of its ruling ladies. While they resist much technology being created by the outside world they have embraced some of it and become extraordinarily long lived and because of that few young people have any say in anything about their world. Many want their world to change but few succeed in the way that June and Enki manage, her by being a modern artist whose work is compelling and different and him by becoming the Summer King, the highest position any man in the city can hold which occurs once every five years and after a year of power will be ritually killed in order to reaffirm the authority of Palmares Tres' queen. 

The Good: Johnson creates a futuristic setting that is neither dystopian or utopian (that’s actually a dystopia) which helps make it one of the most realistic science-fiction settings I’ve ever come across. This isn’t a little detail either, the struggles and conflicts of the city are the center and heart of this story, it's Enki's reason for becoming the Summer King in the first place, and Johnson succeeds wildly in portraying a city where ordinary people live and are unsure of what future they should follow and where politicians have a mix of their own and everyone else's wishes as their goal. As for all the other parts of the setting, I’m a sucker for a story with strong settings and the way that the technology is integrated into everything and is explained so casually is what really makes the story for me. Johnson creates a setting that is mostly foreign to me but does it with such confidence and vivid descriptions that I had no trouble accepting it* and, once I figured out how the city was laid out, visualizing it. I also loved the kind of art June did, in real life I'm not a big fan of modern art (or post-modern, I'm not completely sure which one hers is) but two things made it work here. One is that I'm simply of tired that nearly every time there's a character in any story whose an artist that they normally sketch or paint, it just gets a bit tedious. And secondly because June's art makes so much sense in this setting, it's wild, it's thought provoking, it makes use of the materials in and around her city. It ends up being a perfect fit with her character, Palmares Tres, and with the entire story.  

The Bad: There was a lot of unfamiliar slang used in the book (I don’t know if it’s real, Brazilian slang or made up for the sake of the book) and I wish that there had been a small glossary in the back since I was never able to pick up on what some of the words meant when they were only used once or twice. I also wish the ending had been a slight bit clearer, I had a few questions which I don't I was supposed to have and just a paragraph or two could have cleared them up (unless I was supposed to have these specific questions in which case obviously the story succeeded). Finally, by the end I had a few problems with how Enki grew and developed. Some people might consider this a spoiler so I shall try to be as vague as possible, Enki does A Thing which ultimately results in a change in character, I'm not exactly sure it can even be called development since he doesn't have full control or choice over changing, and I felt like this short-changed the story in some ways. I'm entirely sure that this was all deliberately done, Enki is supposed to be a tragic character after all, when I remember where he started and the goals he had then, versus what he was like by the very end well, I wish that had been pulled off a little differently.

So for a story with an amazing setting, interesting characters (all of whom are non-white I should note, both due to the gene mods and from growing up in a culture which has more than just American or European influences), and two prominent gay relationships (plus a take on a love triangle which is a bit different than usual) I'm giving this book four out of five stars, plan on buying it someday and plan on checking out Johnson's other works. And while recommending this I'd also like to mention some books that I was reminded of while reading, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu's Zarah the Windseeker which also has a great, vivid setting whose inspiration was completely foreign to me yet I fell in love with due to how confidently Okorafor-Mbachu described it and Karen Healey's The Shattering but for slightly spoilery reasons, it and The Summer Prince have one rather large plot element in common but it's done completely differently. 

*well, except for the one detail of people having children after they turn 50 and much later than that. But, given the passing mention of gene mods and that people’s skin tones must fit into a certain range of colors I can easily hand wave that and say that they just do something either to the uterus or eggs to make this viable. And really, I have just one problem with the technology out of a story which is chock-full of it and is one of the main plot drivers? That’s amazing!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Manga Review: Mars (volumes 1-3)

Recently I started going to my not-so-local library again and, since I'll only be able to use it until mid-August or so, I'm checking out just about any and every manga series I can get my hands on that doesn't look absolutely terrible. I actually remember reading the first volume of this series years and years ago (I think my local library had it, I also recall thinking that the characters were college aged which is quite incorrect) and liked it and I've seen some good things about it around the internet so I grabbed the first few volumes that were in order (I know they have some of the later volumes but I don't know if they have all of them, both times I've been recently they've been missing random chunks) and three volumes is more than enough to get the feel for a series and see if I want to continue it!

Mars (volumes 1-3) by Fuyumi Soryo

Summary: Kira is a shy student who loves art and is rather terrified when the class playboy and wildboy finally shows up to school and ends up seated next to her. But she quickly learns that while rough around the edges and reckless he's not a bad guy and they slowly strike a friendship and then a romance as they learn more and more about each other.

The Good: I'm rather picky about the kind of romance I like and this one fits my requirements nicely. The main plot isn't about the characters pining over each other, or other romantic interests, and as a bonus there's no love triangle either, excellent. Instead the story, at least so far, is about two teens, one very broken and the other simply shy who reach out to each other and in the process grow and start to become more comfortable with life as a whole (and considering my manga "roots" are with Fruits Basket the fact that I like this kind of story should be no surprise). While she starts out as shy Kira has already started to grow more outspoken and determined, plus if I read everything correctly the story plays around with the "oh the girl is being bullied because she talked to the guy therefore it's her/his fault" trope and (correctly) says that it's neither of their faults (not that this makes it any easier to deal with or resolve sadly). And I especially love how the story has characterized Rei in some ways, while Rei is acknowledged in the story (and most likely by the reader) as attractive the story never sexualizes him and uses it as an excuse for any of the situations. What I mean is that I've come across a number of shojo stories which have a bit of female gaze (which is exactly what it sounds like, a gender-flipped, still straight, version of the male gaze) which is meant to titillate the reader more than the character and to excuse (again, more to the reader than the character) the character's bad-boy actions towards both the girl and other characters. This never happens with Rei, partially since it seems that it never occurs to him to use his looks to get his way with anything other than hooking up for casual sex and when he does get mad it's portrayed as a very scary, not okay event, something that doesn't exactly make his character more likable but rather makes the manga as a whole more likable for me.

The Bad: I am a little worried about what this series will do next which is what I worry about all longer, character driven series, there's just a limit to how much character development high school aged characters can have and still remain realistic. I had to check a few things on the wikipedia page and glancing through I think I can see now how it plans to fill up another dozen volumes. I'm still a little cautious but, given that even with the character development that's already happened Kira has a bit of a ways to go, and Rei has literal miles, I'm more than willing to take a chance and see what the manga can do. Other than that, after having read so much manga I can't tell if the bullying scenes are actually cliched, if I'm just jaded, or if the manga is old enough that these scenes wouldn't have been cliched in the mid to late 90s but regardless I hope there aren't too many more of them because at that point they will certainly be more of a pain to read than contribute anything else, new, or meaningful to the characters or the plot.

The Art: Yup we're in the 90s folks, bring on the long limbed and high cheekboned male characters! (although at lease these look slightly more realistic than the characters in other series, say Red River who appeared to be all cheekbones). So far the cast is fairly small but all the key players look distinct and the motorcycle scenes also look great, I wonder if Soryo was already a fan of motorcycle racing (and created the manga partially as an excuse to draw it) or if she simply studied and watched a lot of races. Either way those scenes look great and I'm also enjoying the change of pace by looking at a manga whose art clearly screams 90s.

So as soon as I can get the library's catalog to work again I plan on seeing what other volumes they have and, provided that they have all of them, plan on requesting all of them to try and finish up this series. If that does happen then expect a review of the full series later this summer, crossing my fingers that this works out!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Anime Review: Red Data Girl

And now it's time to start talking about the spring 2013 anime series, hurray because I was running out of time to watch a full series for review every week. Once I start talking about the summer shows I'll make an overview/wrap-up post for the spring anime on my tumblr or such since I ended up cutting a lot of shows this time around, this is actually one of only four reviews which might surprise some people since I did not like the first episode at all. But Funimation licensed it and like I said I would I tried out a couple more episodes on their site and by the second episode I was hooked, this one really does have a three episode hump you need to get over, just like everyone was telling me.

Red Data Girl

Summary: Izumiko has grown up living with an older caretaker couple in a shrine deep in the mountains while her parents live in Tokyo and while she's never quite felt normal (frying every electronic you come into contact with will do that) she's content with her life. So she's rather confused when an old friend of her mother's appears and says that his son will now serve Izumiko as a servant (and he is NOT happy about this) because she has great and unusual powers that require some help protecting.

The Good: It's hard to articulate why the second episode worked so much better for me than the first one did but by the third episode the plot has started moving, the characters have started talking to each other (both literally and in the sense of "they are exchanging ideas") and the tone (quiet yet with mystical things happening underneath) of is established and it all starts to blend. It may seem a little odd when I both describe the tone like that and say that the show is rather quick paced and chock-full of plot but it is, although I suspect this has more to do with the abbreviated length than anything else. The character development is a bit more spotty but by the end I can safely say that the characters aren't who they started out being and it's for the better. All in all it's a bit hard to explain why but the show really clicked for me I enjoyed it's plotting, character interaction, and overall tone well enough that it's a must buy for me at some point.

The Bad: This is a 12 episode anime based off of a six book novel series (I believe it's completed at six volumes but I'm not 100% positive) and only manages to cover five of them, I believe that makes a large problem very clear. Although, having read a summary of the last volume I'm not sure it even clears up some of the questions I had at the end of the series which isn't exactly a good thing either. Oddly enough the show does have decent pacing but you can tell it would have been much better if it had been two-cours long instead and had time to breath instead of cramming plot points into every last minute of each episode and would have let the character development feel a tad bit more natural. Finally, for me this anime reminded me of both Ghost Hound and Studio Ghibli's work but with one key difference, while all the strange things going on in GH were explained (to both the characters and the viewers), and likewise each Ghibli film takes time to explain at least a bit of it's mythology, this series seemed to assume that it's viewers understand a lot about Shintoism and Shugendo (which I hadn't even heard about prior to this series), in addition to some Japanese history, which makes some of  the plot points a little hard to follow. I'll probably end up skimming every forum thread I can find on the show to see if anyone can fill in the blanks and before I rewatch this show, which I do plan to do someday, I'm going to read up as much as I can about Shintoism and Shugendo to see if some thing make a bit more sense a second time around. 

Production Values: The good thing about waiting for the Funimation stream was that while I still wasn't watching an HD, 720p stream of the show it was still much better than the screenshots I've seen of the NicoNico streams (which were still way better than the stream I saw of the first episode) and looked rather gorgeous. The use of color and light was nice and the final episode had some really smoothly animated action sequences, that more than made up for waiting for the two week delay. As for the music, both the opening and ending songs took a while to grow on me but by the end I really adored those around and they certainly fit the tone of the series nicely (although I had an odd moment when I realized that the last time I heard the singer of the ED was for one of Humanity Has Declined's songs which is almost thematically opposite of this show).

This one gets a 3.5 or 4 out of 5 for me and I do plan on buying the show if Funimation acquires the rest of the rights. For those interested, it's streaming on Funimation's site and on Hulu and if the idea of a mash-up between Ghost Hound and Studio Ghibli's works interests you then by all means give the first two or three episodes a try, even if the first doesn't quite click for you try the second as well!  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Movie Review: Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay

So at some point in the last year a geeky/nerdy "themed" cafe opened up in my current hometown and having gone there a few times now makes me extra sad that what can only be called "the nerd boom" (with how being nerdy has become a lot more mainstream than it ever has before, your milage may vary whether this is a good thing or not) only happened once I had gone off to college since I would have loved to have hung out and met people at this cafe when I was in high school. Of course this isn't going to stop me from hanging out at it for the next couple of months and while a friend and I were casting about for something to do she remembered that they also show indie films there and the one they were showing this week seemed kind of interesting so why not see an indie documentary about a famous magician?

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay

Summary: Ricky Jay is a fantastic magician whose been preforming for years and along the way he's gotten a lot of help, and stories, from earlier pros.

The Good: This may sound a bit odd but my favorite part of this whole documentary was a rather short bit with a British journalist who had come to interview Ricky Jay as he was working with someone on a film (a different one than this I believe) and she summed up his personality rather well, the good and the bad of it. I was a bit surprised they had even included that part, usually when you see a documentary about a living person they don't outright state their flaws, but since this was a story about both Ricky Jay and about all the magicians he met it makes more sense and I plan on trying to find her article to read later on. What really makes this documentary work however is that it's clear that Ricky Jay is a fantastic magician, I've never heard of him so the documentary had to convince me on it's own but it did a great job and Ricky Jay also did a great job at showing why all his various mentors were so inspiring to him through all his various stories. He choose good stories, they were all the right length, the film didn't seem like it had too many or too few, this just felt like a well-thought out and produced documentary all around. 

The Bad: Even though this film was barely an hour and a half long it still felt a little long to me and I would have liked it to have been a little shorter. I'm not sure what I would have cut out since nothing felt superfluous, but it did seem to drag a little at times and I would have liked it if the pacing was a bit snappier. Other than that, since I'm not a stage magic aficionado I felt like some things, such as references and stories about quite a few magicians from the 20th century, went over my head. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but this isn't a film with a wide audience and while I do think it was good and people should see it if interested but if the initial summary or this review hasn't made you interested in it skip it and watch something that does have your attention instead.   

Production Values: Thankfully, unlike the last documentary I talked about, this one was competently done! There were two hiccups where the screen looked a bit weird during the film but, since these were at points when the film was showing some very very old footage I don't know if they were problems with the footage (which they decided to use anyway), a problem with the specific DVD used for this showing, or an encoding problem that affects all of the DVDs. In any case, while annoying both of those moments were short enough that it didn't draw me out of the film long. There were a couple of scenes which I would have filmed differently (tip, if you've been focusing on the same, unmoving subject for so long that you have to zoom both in and out to keep it interesting you probably need another camera angle to intersperse) but as I've said before, I'm fine if documentaries aren't super visually interesting and as it was this one worked just fine.

I'm giving this 3 out of 5 stars for being well done and worth seeing if it sounds interesting, and I'll probably remember it for a while since I've never seen a documentary about this before, but in the end it just wasn't for me and I found it a bit dull. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Book Review: Throne of Glass

I was thrilled to find this book at the local library since I had heard a lot of good things about it and had recently tried to get it through a few contests but wasn't lucky. When I first heard of this book I was a bit confused though since all the summaries made it sound like it was either starting in media res or was the sequel to another book I couldn't find. So, in case anyone else was confused about that, yes this is the first book in a series and so it does start a little bit in the middle of things. That is one of the problems I have with the book however so let's get to the review so I can elaborate.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

I know I don't talk about covers as much as I used to but I wanted to say that I think I like the paperback cover just a little more than this cover used on the hardbacks. This cover did look just a tad too blue to me in person (I would have put a bit more yellow into the buildings) but there's nothing I really dislike about it, I simply really liked the starkness of the paperback cover (and also how it matches the cover for the sequel, Crown of Midnight). Although, while looking for pictures I came across this photo for the German cover and I might like that one best of all.

Summary: Once Calaena was known as the Assassin of Adarlan and had the skills to match that lofty title, until the country was invaded by it's neighbor and Calaena was sent to the salt mines as a punishment. She holds out for a year at which point the prince of her new country approaches her with a proposal, fight in this seemingly insane competition his father has come up with to choose his champion and after four years she'll be free to go wherever she please. While she's not thrilled with the prospect Calaena is no idiot and agrees, only to find that there are darker secrets lurking within the castle and it might not be the competition that kills her. 

The Good: I'm a bit on the fence how I feel about the love triangle but, since it was never the main focus of the story I was more or less alright with it. I also noticed glancing at a few reviews (I needed to double check some spelling, normally I don't go looking for reviews of books after I've read them) that some people despised Calaena and I'm not one of those people. With a character who is stated to be one of the best assassins in the world at such a young age I am expecting someone who is not only competent at almost everything they do but also proud of it (also I have no problem with a character who likes clothes when the descriptions were as interesting as they were here, for once I actually believed the characters when they said a gown was beautiful!). I'm curious what the next book will bring since, while this story was conclusively wrapped up, I'm really curious what troubles Calaena will encounter next and what those will mean for her and the kingdom. For once I have no idea where Maas plans to take this story and I'm eager to find out!

The Bad: This book just feels like it's missing a prologue and, considering it barely elaborates on Calaena's past this drove me nuts. To make this crystal clear, this book starts in a logical place for this particular story to start with Calaena after her defeat being offered a chance to change that, we just seem to have skipped the first book. Now, obviously the next book (or one after that, I don't know how long this series will be) could fix that but, since Maas has put up a series of short stories about Calaena's story before the mines (each for $0.99 on places such as Amazon, hence why I haven't read them yet) this makes me think that she won't, she's already explained what happened. Really that's my biggest problem with the story but, since has a huge impact on Caleana's character, it's not exactly a minor problem. 

So this book earns a 4 out of 5 for me, lack of prologue not withstanding since there is actually a way to find out what happened if I remember to do so.  And if you liked this book I'll recommend (/if you liked this books I would recommend this one) Grave Mercy (which I suppose I should start keeping an ear out for the sequel) and the Star Crossed/Liar's Moon duo (which I'll admit is mostly because of the "character has a past which is currently unresolved/explained and likely to remain that way" part, although the settings and leads are similar, Calaena has more in common with Digger than she does with Ismae).

Comic Review: The Last Dragon

Yet another strange thing I pulled from a library, this time from the not-so-local library whose stock of manga and comics I am rapidly consuming, and I went for this one purely because I've read a series by Jane Yolen that involved dragons and liked it (it's also one of my examples of just how weirdly close fantasy and science fiction can be, literally the only thing that keeps it from being fantasy is the fact that it's on a colony planet in the future with low technology, just about everything else could have fit into a fantasy novel). And hey, I've read things for far stranger reasons before, let's see how this one does!

The Last Dragon Written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Rebecca Guay

Summary: There have been no dragons on the isles of May in centuries but, as is often the case in stories, one dragon egg survived, slumbering, until a mishap cracks it open and as dragons are wont to do it soon grows and begins to devour anything it can find. The islanders remember the old tales but they are not dragonslayers so while they do all the can they also begin a search for someone who can kill the beast before they all perish. 

The Good: I suspect this story is a comic instead of being a prose short story is because of how short it really is. It took me next to no time at all to read it and without the artwork I would have finished it even faster which I suppose means that this was a good choice format wise. The story flowed well and the pacing was quick which also fit the story well, but other than those technical details there was nothing about the story which really grabbed me enough to like it or even find memorable. So let's move onto that:

The Bad: While not bad or terrible the story just felt, flat. We've all seen stories about the last dragon (or more rarely some other mythical creature) awakening and wrecking havoc and we've all seen stories about unlikely hero(s) coming together to defeat it using cleverness instead of sheer strength. And this story just didn't play with any of these ideas, everything played out exactly the way you expected, from the overall story to how the characters interacted and for me that makes for a dull read. This time I can't even say "but it's old so of course I've seen other, later, stories do it better," nope this is from 2011 and, even if it theoretically spent a long time in development, it's still new enough that everyone involved must have seen the story in a dozen iterations elsewhere and I can't help but wonder why it's so dull then.  

The Art: This might be me seeing something that's not there, however while I liked the art there were a number of pages I saw which looked unfinished, as if a few layers or filters had been left off and I noticed that when simply reading through, not carefully rereading just for the art. Again, this could be me but it threw me out of the story a little bit, when I came back to it I developed the same opinions about the art that I had for the story, it works, it's fine (I do like the style) but it didn't really add anything to the story (except time spent reading) or do anything with it that I find truly memorable, this isn't a story I expect to remember any longer than a few months down the road.

I guess I'll give this one a 2.5 out of 5 since it's certainly technically competent and not terrible but, like last week, if for some reason someone does want to read a story about the last dragon or whatnot tell me, I'm sure I can think of a better story for you to read instead.

Monday, June 17, 2013

TV Series Review: Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child

As I said previously, I really want to watch even more Classic Doctor Who this summer and, presented with a small selection at the local college library and no recommendations I panicked and decided that I might as well start with the beginning. In light of the fact that this episode is just a few months under 50 years old I'm going to cut out the production values part of the review since, well, it's a 50 year old tv episode, it's not going to look fantastic (and I might do this for other first doctor episodes since I rather doubt I'll have more to say on them). With that in mind, onto the review and I'm going to try and make sure that all of my reviews go back to their proper days this week, sorry about all of that everyone!

Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child

Summary: Ian and Barbara are school teachers who both are having trouble with one of their more brilliant students, a young teen named Susan who seems to both know more about their subjects than they do and also is bored by a lot of parts of them. Under the pretense of being concerned about her sudden bad grades the two attempt to find out where she lives with her grandfather but all they find at the address is an old junkyard with, well, junk and a police box inside. As any sci-fi fan knows this is not a police box however and soon all four of them find themselves in 10,000 BCE and caught up in a fight between cavemen.  

The Good: As I believe I've said before, I like it when the Doctor is written as a slightly darker, or even just grumpier, character and the Doctor here is a quite grumpy old man. It's a little hard to reconcile that with the man who stole a TARDIS to explore the universe, although considering that element must have been added in earlier I'll live (heck, here Susan says that she came up with tardis as a nickname which is completely different from what the rest of the series implies, again especially considering these are details I can let them slide here). Funny enough I think I liked the way this serial introduced the companions and the Doctor more than how a lot of the Nu Who companions were introduced, probably because I like the "ordinary people thrown into adventure" trope quite a bit (although I do feel like that scene dragged a bit, although that was certainly just to fill time within the episode) and after seeing Nu Who repeat the "person tries to track down the Doctor" trick a few times it's gotten a bit dull. Plus Ian and Barbara clicked for me almost immediately, I hope they stay around for a while since I want more adventures with them in it, well, I would like one detail to go away though. 

The Bad: There was a lot of screaming in this serial, like enough to fill a slasher horror film. It was a bit jarring since in The Aztecs there was no screaming at all and I've got the second and third serials checked out to watch next so I'll be interested to see if Barbara and Susan (but mostly Barbara) gradually stop screaming or if that was written out early on for being annoying (it also felt a little incongruent with Barbara's character earlier in the episode and with the fact that Susan is an adventurer, I really hope that all the screaming vanishes sooner rather than later). 

I feel like someone told me before that this serial wasn't really worth watching, or maybe that it wasn't that good, and while it certainly wasn't the best there's no reason I'd advise people to not watch it. It drags a bit and the characterization is a bit off but considering that later Doctor Who serials do refer back to it, and that in general it's good to know where something comes from, but it's hardly a bad serial and with the break until November it's not as if fans don't have the time to watch the older stuff.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Anime Review: Love Live! School Idol Project

Yep I'm switching up these reviews too, I didn't realize until this morning that my viewing schedule had been thrown off just enough that I didn't have anything for today. Thankfully since I know that even a 13 episode anime series takes a me a while to get through I plan those out quite a while in advance so I can talk about that! And in case anyone is wondering if there is any methodology or reasoning about what, previous season shows I choose to review, no not really at this point. Initially I was actually going to watch Sankarea but since I needed something new to watch starting the day I got my wisdom teeth out and after that operation I wasn't in the mood for anything involving death/possible blood and gore so I went for something I knew was going to be sweet and safe. Besides, a friend and I had already checked out one episode of the show and I knew a lot of people who liked it so that meant I stood a good chance of liking it as well, right?

Love Live! School Idol Project

Summary: Honoka and her friends love their high school and are crushed to hear that starting next year it won't be accepting new students due to low application numbers and will shut down after three years. After brainstorming about ways to save the school Honoka takes an odd approach, why don't they become School Idols, a popular new fad, and use the popularity they generate to help attract people to the school so it wont' shut down!

The Good: Aside from the fact that one character has the rather out of place character quirk of grabbing other girl's chests (note to male writers, while girls may discuss boobs in real life we generally employ a "look don't touch" policy unless it escalates to something else and this is not a yuri show) this was a pretty squeaky clean show that I'd have no problem showing a middle schooler. I doubt many American middle school kids would have an interest in the show, these kinds of idols are pretty different from American Idol after all, but I wouldn't have any qualms about showing it to my little sister. And the show ended in a much better place than I expected it to, for a while it seemed like it was waffeling around about what to make into it's ending but I think in the end the show figured that out and ended well.

The Bad: This was a bit of a dull show, some of the side characters got more development than others but I think just about everyone needed more than they had (lead character Honoka certainly needed it, I know that the genki, upbeat female lead is to shojo as the hot blooded, gung-ho boy is to shonen but that doesn't mean there's no room for character development). I'll admit that with 13 episodes, a central cast of nine characters, some of whom don't even join the group until around the 9th episode (which was utterly frustrating considering how the OP and ED made it clear this was happening*), is going to be hard to develop but I'm sure they could have pulled it off and with a show that's more character driven than plot driven you have to do it. So with no characters I was especially invested in and a relatively uncomplicated plot there just wasn't much for me here other than the cute outfits I'm sure I'll see cosplayed at cons for several years.

The Production Values: My favorite parts of the show were by far the musical numbers and, while I don't feel the need to buy any of the singles, the songs were all competently sung and thankfully translated. I'll admit it, the main reason my friend and I initially tried this show was because the outfits looked like they would be cute to cosplay, hey that's one of the main reasons I tried Revolutionary Girl Utena as well, being attracted to a show in a stylized, visual medium, is hardly as shallow as it first sounds. And the show looks good, it's funny to see people talking (read: complaining) about the CG used in the dance sequences after AKB0048 since it's much subtler and less-often used here. Here the CG shots are of no more than three girls at a time, short, and interspersed among the traditionally animated shots so while noticeable that really shouldn't be a deal breaker for anyone.

With all of that in mind I'm giving the show a 2.5 out of 5 and will not be either buying NISA's wonderful box set or trying out the second season which was announced today. However, if anyone does want to try the show it's streaming on crunchyroll and as I mentioned earlier they were even able to translate all of the songs which was fantastic. 

*as I've said before, mostly in book reviews, but I adhere to the school of thought that your readers/viewers are going to figure out the plot "twists" and therefore you should try to delay revealing them as little as possible after that moment or else there's little point in having a "twist".

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Manhwa Review: Full House

Just in case people didn't get the memo yesterday, I switched the comic and book reviews this week since I just hadn't gotten around to reading a comic as of yesterday so if you came here looking for a book review just go down to the next post. If you came here looking for a comic review then great, you're in the right place because I've got an odd one this week. Odd in the sense that, well, did everyone else know that the now-defunct publisher CPM (part of DC Comics) published manga and manhwa? I hadn't known that until a few weeks back when I stumbled upon a different title at my local used bookstore and was pretty surprised, I hadn't even realized manhwa was being printed in the US in 2004, heck the copyright page for this book (found at my not-so-local library) says it was on it's second printing too, madness! Which is also a good word to describe this story.....

 Full House by Soon Yon Won

Summary: Elle is an aspiring screenwriter living in a house that her late father had designed and is quite attached to it. She's confused and enraged to learn that the house has been sold and she's to be evicted as it's new owner, world famous actor Ryder Baye, prepares to move in yet somehow she ends up pretending to be engaged to him despite the fact that they hate each other's guts.

The Good: Well, it is a bit more unusual to come across manga/manhwa published in the US with adult characters (certainly not impossible but it's usually not what you find first) s that was, nice. I also ended up liking the character Miranda, Ryder's manager, more than I expected for her almost talent at looking at a bad situation and being positive about how it can work out well (and how this weirded out the other characters just a bit) and her scenes were the most fun to read.

The Bad: As a general disclaimer, I'm not a big fan of the "slap slap kiss" romance trope in general, I don't even get why fans will ship two characters together who (obviously to me) hate each other and call it "unresolved sexual tension", this just isn't my area of expertise. However, I think that a lot of people would agree with me that the slap slap kiss go on just far too long. Several times that situation goes down, things start to defuse, the characters walk away, aaaand then one comes back and it starts up all over again! I feel like the author just had no sense of timing (since I feel like slap slap kiss does require a bit of comedic timing to work well) and because of this I can't believe that the characters will ever have feelings for each other. This could be the rare work which doesn't pair up the characters in the very end but as it stands Yon Woo would have to do a lot of writing, and more convincing writing than right now, to make me fully believe that Elle and Ryder could actually fall in love with each other.

The Art: This is a bit random but is it just me or does Ryder look an awful lot like a lady on the cover? I'm well aware of the bishonen trope but if anyone was to pick up this story and think it was a lesbian love story between a pretty girl and a more androgynous girl I wouldn't blame them. Not that you would make that mistake once you looked at the back cover (on which the characters look more like high school students than adults) or within the story itself, although at that point you might be having more trouble with figuring out the reading order of more than a few oddly laid pages (the rapid fire pace of the slap slap kiss made it even worse for me).

This one gets a 1.5 out of 5 stars since I didn't like it, don't think anyone can convince me to read more of it and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Even if you like this sort of romance I will go out of my way to find a better example of it for you to read, although this does mean that the series has won the dubious distinction of being the first CPM work that I've actively disliked, I'm almost impressed. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Review: Madness Underneath

EDIT: Well this is a first, apparently this is part of a four book series, not a trilogy as I originally thought, so I'm having to change some things in the The Bad section. Doesn't change my feelings on the book but obviously if the series isn't a trilogy I can't refer to it as such!

 In case anyone is confused, I'm switching the book and manga reviews up this week since I only had a chance to grab manga/comics from the not-so-local-library on Wednesday, was sick on Thursday for a lot of the day, and just haven't had a chance to read anything beyond the second volume of Swan yet (and since it's been so long since I talked about the first volume I didn't feel like I would write a very good review). However, I have read this book, the sequel to 2011's The Name of the Star which was one of my favorite books that year and I've been dying (ha-ha, it's a book about ghosts) to read it since it was released in February and can certainly talk about that instead. However, much like Swan, while I remember the plot I had a hard time remembering some details about the individual characters which is never a good sign....

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Summary: It's only been about a month since the American Rory was attacked and nearly killed by an ex-British-policeman-ghost-hunter (who was a ghost himself) at her London school and while she's not exactly eager to go back she's not happy where she is now either. But it appears that the British police have gotten wind of what else happened during the attack, namely that Rory has gone from someone who can simply see ghosts to someone who can kill them with a touch, and they want her back in London, and Rory isn't too happy about any of that. 

The Good: I still rather like Rory as a character, even though she does a lot of things I thought were dumb (and would have thought were dumb at her age) and I was surprised at how much I liked the London group as well, I hadn't remembered that. I was also happy that the story didn't immediately drop the school aspect of Rory's life or pretend that she could miss a month at a very high level school and still be doing fine in her classes, it was a touch of realism I don't often find in books of any genre and appreciated it.  

The Bad: I had some problems with how this book was laid out in regards to how it's going to fit into an entire series. There's no villain like there was in the first book until the very very end and, while that and another subplot might make for interesting conflict by the end, at this point they feel much less threatening than the villain of the first book which isn't generally how you're supposed to make it work. I was also hoping for a connection to the first book's villain which again, might happen in a later book (especially since the characters have mentioned how confused they were by the reveal and I doubt Johnson would have reminded the reader of that if she didn't plan to use it later on) but nothing happened here. And that's my overall problem with this story, it feels like the stereotype of the middle book in a series or trilogy, not much happens until the very end (where something happens that will make everything easier/harder for the main characters in the next book) and lacks both the plot and character development that the first book had. 

I was actually a bit less frustrated with the book before I, erm, laid out exactly why I was unhappy with it, but this was still a disappointing read none the less. I'm going to give it 2.5 out of 5 stars and hope that the third book, which I imagine will be out sometime next year, will be worth it.    

Monday, June 10, 2013

Anime Review: Encouragement of the Climb and Senyuu

As I've mentioned before it can be a bit hard at times to make sure I've watched/read enough so that I have enough material to make four full reviews every week and for this week, well, I just didn't have time to watch another full series. I realized this in advance and when I was wracking my mind for alternatives I hit upon one, how about I try out some of the shorts (series that have episodes which are five minutes or less) that crunchyroll is streaming and see if any of those tickle my fancy and talk about multiple ones to make up for a full review. So that's what we're doing this time, since crunchyroll only started picking up those shows in the past year or so (or perhaps studios only started making a lot of shorts a year or so ago) I doubt I'll be able to do this again any time soon but it was a change of pace and it was nice to be able to get through an entire series in one evening and still have time to do other things.

Encouragement of the Climb

Encouragement of the Climb is a series with 3:30 minute long episodes that focus on Aoi, a quiet high school girl who wants to live her high school life quite unadventoursly but is reluctantly dragged back into mountain climbing (really hiking) by an old friend from middle school and she finds herself enjoying the sport again. I saw the first episode back when it first aired in the winter and I was rather lukewarm on it then but now that I had a chance to watch all the episodes in one go I really warmed up to it and it ended up being a really cute show. Bear in mind that it's not a sports show, rather it's a "cute girls do cute things" show and the cute thing in question (usually) has to do with mountain hiking. It never gets overly saccharine and I think that the 3:30 length is perfect for it, the episodes do feel a bit short but something happens in each one and during it's quick 30 second outro the show even shows a still or two advancing the story a little longer. So I give this a recommendation and would certainly watch a second season of it, just in one batch like I did with this, not week to week.


A long time ago there was a demon named Satan Rchimedes and he caused trouble for the human world until he was sealed away. Now there are demons running amuck and causing trouble again so all  of the descendants of the hero who sealed him have been sent on a quest to defeat this new evil.  Now I know this doesn't sound like a bad premise, especially since the story doesn't take itself seriously at all and I know that a lot of people liked it but I just did not like this show at all. The humor got overly repetitive, was forced, the situations were rarely amusing, and even though the story was trying to break/invert some common fantasy tropes the problem is that genre-aware fantasy has been around long enough that it has it's own stereotypes and tropes which the series followed too often. I know this one has a second season coming out this summer but I won't be checking it out at all, even  if the episodes are just four and a half minutes long.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Movie Review: That Guy...Who Was In That Thing

And I'm back to having stable wi-fi, yaaay. Although I know that I'm making at least two other large trips this summer (and Otakon which I'm not even going to attempt blogging during), crossing my fingers that my internet will be a little more stable for that. In any case, I had to scramble a bit for this review anyway since I was planning on talking about the Fifth Doctor classic episode and it turns out that it's the one episode I've already seen/covered, Earthshock. So I went and looked at my list of movies on Netflix I eventually wanted to watch and found this one which I had seen some people talking about on twitter recently and, since it was only an hour and some change long, figured that it would be a good fit.

That Guy...Who Was In That Thing

Summary: There are many actors in Hollywood and only a handful will continuously capture the public's attention. As for the rest, well, they're playing smaller roles and even big roles but they're never quite as memorable, they're always just "that guy".

The Good: The way this movie was "pitched" to me was that it was about a group of character actors talking about the business which interested me, since character actors often look quite distinct, although as the actors themselves point out rather quickly that term doesn't quite mean what it used to. They were less "character" actors and more small to medium stars and it was interesting to be reminded of how small the pool of big name actors really is and just how many of the mainstream roles they get. Anime is similar, even though you can have smaller actors like these guys playing lots of guest roles on tv, or even a number or being part of the main cast of quite a few, if their not in the spotlight all the time it's easy to forget about them and that was interesting to think about.

The Bad: There are two big problems with this, it's too long and has too many people. There are 16 people interviewed here, all male, and 15 of them are white, I think most people can see what the problem here is (and when I saw the recommendation on twitter I also saw some people noting that it was all male and someone else saying that they had seen a similar movie recently but it had included some women, no idea on what the title of that production is sadly). And even when you have 16 people all talking about some of the troubles, both in general and personal, with becoming a recognized name in the industry that's just not enough to fill up 78 minutes without getting repetitive around the 45 minute mark. Sadly, between those two problems, plus a slew of technical problems I'm about to dive into, I just can't recommend this and was bored by a lot of this film. 

Production Values: Normally I don't have much to say about the production values of a documentary (partially because most people are unwilling to do anything extremely stylistic) beyond "okay they were competent, good!" However here, wow technically this was terrible. I wanted to give the filmmaker a tripod since they clearly didn't have one, for some reason they liked to zoom in and out on the speaker and sometimes didn't aim the camera quite right (I swear at one point we were accidentally staring at a grey wall for a few seconds), there was a shot or two where the actor was in front of a window and the poor camera was trying to figure out what exposure to shoot for and was changing as they were recording, I even heard an airplane in the background for one outside shot! Guys, I've made videos and yes it's frustrating to record something, see that, and have to rerecord but as it stands I, and most of my classmates from that class, have all made technically better videos with rather low level equipment, no budget, and almost no time, that's pretty terrible!

Sorry for no photo tonight guys, apparently Photobucket is down and I'll edit that in in the morning. In any case, I'm giving this movie just 2 out of 5 stars for being entirely too long, white, male, and for making me question the camera-person's technical abilities. If I can find the name of that other film I'll edit the review and put it in, for right now all I can say is that you can surely find something better to watch with your time.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Book Review: Where Mountain Meets the Moon

And now to mooch off of family wifi to see if I can get this review up on time. This is another book that I grabbed in desperation towards the end of the school year yet I wasn't able to read it until I got home and checked it out from my local library (silly school had me return the books a few days before graduation). Once I started reading I got a little nervous since it became clear that it was middle grade not young adult, and well, middle grade books just engage me less these days (considering I'm about ten years too old for them this shouldn't be a surprise). But, since I am still in a slump, plus this was on my list, and I was enjoying it, I decided to perserve and finished it rather quickly regardless.

Where Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Summary: Minli lives with her family on the Fruitless Mountain and, even though she knows why the stories say the mountain is so barren, after hearing another story from her father and on the advice of a goldfish she goes off to see the Old Man on the Moon and ask him herself.

The Good: I liked how the story was able to incorporate a half dozen other stories told by the characters into itself and create a history and a precedence for what Minli is doing that way. I have no idea how closely any of these stories resemble real Chinese fairy tales but they have the same feeling, the same kind of stories and storytelling, that “real” fairy tales I’ve read had and that’s not the easiest style of story to recreate.

The Bad: Since the story is middle grade it was a little too simplistic for my taste, that combined with the fact that it’s a quest means that Minli rarely faced true adversary or hardship and I do wish the story had thrown in a little more of that (even though I do prefer quest type stories to "defeat the evil lord" kinds of stories and liked how no villain suddenly appeared at the end for Minli to vanquish). But, since a middle grade book doesn’t need to be the most complex thing out there, nothing really does and when your readers are 11 this is doubly true, this isn’t a terrible thing and with the story’s quick pacing this also would have been hard to pull off.

I’m giving this one a 3.5 out of 5 for being a rather solid book, even if it wasn’t precisely what I wanted, and would easily recommend it to any middle grade reader who wanted something fantasy to read. 

Manga Review: Carat

So, I'm out of town for the weekend and it didn't occur to me that the retirement home where I was staying wouldn't have wifi or even an ethernet jack. Elderly people use the internet right, they can't all be luddites. In any case, I now feel rather hip using my laptop in a coffee shop eating something not-coffee, talking about an unlicenesed manga title that probably not many people have heard of

Carat by Watanabe Yoshitomo

Summary: Two girls, Yuni and Melissa from  Carat have been chosen as candidates for the next queen and now have to fight each other over jewels that have been unleashed on Earth, the first to collect five wins. Buuuuut the girls don’t really want to fight each other, they’re best friends after all, so they both recruit someone to fight as a magical girl in their place and thus is the start of a truly bizarre adventure.

The Good: In case the summary didn’t make it clear enough, this is a magical girl parody and one I found much more amusing than ones such as Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan or Puni Puni Poemi. I think it did help that I read some of Sugar Sugar Rune recently, since this has a really similar identical set-up, but I think that a lot of fans of the magical girl genre have come across these tropes before and can easily find the humor in it. The story is also well paced, it’s not too long, doesn’t draw anything out (except the ship tease), as I said earlier I liked a lot of the humor so this ended up being a quick, fun little read for me which was good. 

The Bad: I will admit that I wanted a few things to be a little more conclusively resolved by the end (heck, I wasn’t expecting the ending to be as odd as it was so it caught me off guard and I didn’t realize at first that this was the end) but I should have seen that coming considering this is a parody that plays almost no trope straight. Some of the jokes, especially concerning the villains, became a bit too repetitive by the end, and I would have liked to have seen at least a little more character development than actually happened (I hadn’t realized the story was so short when I started or I would have nixed that hope) but overall it was short enough that it didn’t have time to develop any huge problems.

The Art: The art was not exactly generic, since there isn’t really a “this is how all magical girl stories look!” style but if I was to read something else by the artist I wouldn’t even notice since there was nothing that stood out and made the style distinctive or even recognizable. I liked all the designs, they were cute and everything was certainly consistent enough for everything to look like it was from the same story but it didn’t stand out the way the art in other series has for me.

Licensing Chances: This is something I’m going to add in for unlicensed manga that I talk about (probably not anime but I might) and sadly I think that this series has next to no chance to being licensed. It is pretty short which does work in it’s favor and it’s from the publisher Mag Garden (ie, no company has “dibs” on it, although this does mean Kodansha Comics can’t license it and since they got a lot of Del Ray’s old titles which included a fair amount of shojo/magical girl titles that is a shame) but I noticed something weird about that. I went to Wikipedia, looked up what magazines Mag Garden has (a shojo one and a shonen one, ______ and _____ respectively) and as far as I can tell every title from those magazines that was licensed in the US was done by TokyoPop who hasn’t been around in a few years (I’ll believe they’re back when they do more than sell back stock through Right Stuf). I have no idea if they had a special contract or if they were just a good fit for each other (which is more likely the case) and sadly this does fit in best with TokyoPop’s line of titles, much better than any other company currently out there. So at this point I doubt we’ll be seeing this in English, if you want to buy it you’ll have to do so in Japanese.

Now that that’s out of the way, I give this 3 out of 5 stars for being fun, something I would pick up since it’s so short, but probably not something I would go to the trouble of importing (honestly if shipping was cheaper than it was then I’d be much more likely to consider importing manga from Japan, curse you Earth having an ocean and a continent between me and comics). However, even though I said I probably wouldn’t be able to identify the artist since the art style wasn’t very, stylistic, I do plan on looking up and seeing what else they’ve made, I wonder how their sense of humor translates into stories that aren’t straight up parodies.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Anime Review: Katanagatari

This is one of those titles which I heard about when it was coming out, thought "cool", saw it was licensed, thought "even cooler" and then waited for a legal stream to show up which never happened. So, since this technically is the spring noitaminA show (it's a rerun and, considering how odd the original airing was, one hour long episode each month for a year, I'm mostly okay with that, sad that it took up the entire timeslot though) I had to at the very least give it a shot and I was really hoping that I'd like it when I went into it.

Katanagatari (literally, Sword Story)

Summary: Several hundred years ago a legendary sword smith made a 1000 swords, most of which were preparation for his crowning works, the 12 shikizaki blades and it's said whoever possesses those 12 could rule Japan. Togame, a strategist for the emperor, is off on a quest to find and retrieve all 12 and after two failed attempts she's come up with an unusual plan to get the rest back, to team up with the son of the man who foiled the last rebellion, Shichika, and make him fall in love with her so that he won't be tempted by anything to steal the swords. Of course, since he's a practitioner of a martial art that uses no swords and can't seem to use one himself perhaps she didn't need to bother with that part....

The Good: I was rather surprised to notice at the end that the story took a completely blank, flat character and made them into more or less a rounded character by the end, which I'm sure was entirely the story's intention but it actually worked out better than I expected! Actually the whole story worked better than I expected, it is a bit predictable at parts (especially since I had heard one or two rumors about the ending) but it was fun, the character banter was a heck of a lot easier to follow than Bakemonogatari (probably because it didn't involve all those stills filled with words), and I really liked how the show looked. Fun isn't precisely the word I'd use to describe this show but it was more than enjoyable, I'd watch it again, and I'd recommend it to friends because of how well it all fits together in the end, even if no particular element especially stands out/is especially stunning.

The Bad: The series is formulaic, in each episode they end up fighting someone for a sword and winning one way or another which does take away a little bit of the tension (apparently the original novels that the story is based on were being turned out by Nisio Isin at a rate of one per month so I can see why the story went this way). The formula starts to get a bit varied in the second half but it never deviates that much. Also, you need to be able to have a rather large suspension of disbelief for this show, especially when things are "explained" in the last episode and things don't make quite as much sense as they could.

Production Values: I'll admit it, one reason I wanted to try this show and like it was because of just how stylish it looked. It's hard to show exactly what I mean from just screenshots but they at least get across how distinctive the character designs are. There was one episode towards the middle where everything looked a bit off (the lines were all drawn differently and the animation didn't seem quite as smooth, it was especially obvious in a flashback which had scenes from every episode) but other than that, admittedly large, hiccup I liked how this looked. As for the music, I was watching fansubs from the original broadcast and I didn't care for either of the openings nor really any of the endings (there was a different one for every episode). Funny enough, I looked up the new opening and ending themes and liked those much better and I liked a lot of the background music as well (to the point where I got cross that about halfway through either the show or my fansubs stopped having the preview in them and since they always played my favorite track with the preview and dammit I wanted to hear more of it!).

So, giving this a 4 out of 5 for enjoying it quite a bit and I guess I need to plan on picking up NISA's very nice sets sometime in the future. It looks like it never sold well enough to get regular sets made, just the premium ones, and hopefully they'll stay in stock long enough for me pick some up, I think I even saw someone say that it seemed like they had stocked a few more at TRSI lately (if the company didn't look at this re-airing and expect to gain a few more fans like myself then they would be a bit silly).